BEJA, town in S. Portugal, capital of the region of Alemtejo; one of the seats of the subordinate rabbinates set up under the general control of the *Arraby Moor in the 15th century. When the kingdom of Portugal was established in the 12th century, Jews are said to have been living already in Beja. In the charter (foro) granted to the town in the 13th century, nine clauses deal with the Jews, both resident and transient; most of them speak of established local usage. A tombstone found in the castle of Beja has a fragment of a Hebrew inscription referring to the death of R. Judah. Another tombstone from Beha was found in the 18th century and was brought to Evora in 1868. It is probably from 1378. After the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in 1496–97, Beja became a center of crypto-Judaism and many natives of the city appeared at autos-da-fé or escaped abroad. In the early years of the 18th century, a physician named Francisco de Sá e Mesquita spitefully denounced persons from Beja – on one occasion 66, on another 92 – who, he said, had come together to observe Jewish rites. The name Beja was common among the Sephardim of the Orient: e.g., Ḥayyim Beja (c. 1810–1870) of Salonika, who subsequently became rabbi of Tyria in Asia Minor; and the scholar-preacher Isaac b. Moses *Beja.
J. Mendes dos Remedios, Os judeus em Portugal, 1 (1895), 422f.; Rosanes, Togarmah, 3 (1938), 115–7; A.da Silva Carvalho, Noticia sôbre alguns medicos judeus do Alentejo (1930), 47–48. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: F. Díaz Esteban, in: Proceedings, 10th World Congress of Jewish Studies (1990), Division B, Vol. 2, 122–3.
[Cecil Roth /
Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.